Town Meeting: West Windsor extends property tax exemption for Ascutney Outdoors

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-10-2023 11:05 PM

WEST WINDSOR — Ninety-six town voters restored tradition on Tuesday, gathering in Story Memorial Hall for the community’s first in-person Town Meeting since the start of the pandemic.

Town Moderator Matt Birmingham, serving his 33rd year in the role, warned community members that he “may be a little rusty” in returning to the town’s traditional floor-vote format for the first time since 2020.

“We’ve been two years away from a meeting like this,” Birmingham said. “We did one year by Australian ballot and one year by Zoom.”

Attendees approved all seven budgetary articles on the warning by voice vote, including an operating budget totaling $1.6 million for the 2023 fiscal year, with $1.2 million to be raised by taxes.

The total operating budget includes a $673,000 general fund, a $899,000 highway fund and $47,000 for the town library.

Voters also approved a five-year property tax exemption for Ascutney Outdoors, a volunteer-run nonprofit located on Mount Ascutney that provides year-round recreational activities, including skiing and tubing in the winter.

Vermont statute allows towns, with voter approval, to exempt public, religious or charitable organizations from paying local property taxes. A previous exemption for Ascutney Outdoors expired this year, requiring the nonprofit to seek a renewal.

Residents voiced strong support for renewing the exemption, calling Ascutney Outdoors a valuable community asset.

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“Without Ascutney Outdoors, we would be kind of lost,” said Albert Bridge School staff member Annalise Kurtzhalz. “(They) host our outdoor classrooms and house our fundraising activities, and they are incredibly supportive of our school. They are such an asset for our community, especially our younger generation.”

Shelley Seward, of Ascutney Outdoors, said the exempted taxes equated to approximately $3,600.

Voters elected retired engineer Mark Harley to a three-year term on the Selectboard. Harley, who ran unopposed for the vacant seat, will replace Selectboard member Brett Myers, who did not seek reelection.

The meeting ran just over 90 minutes, which included legislative updates from state Sen. Alison Clarkson, D-Windsor, and state Reps. John Bartholomew and Elizabeth Burrows, D-Windsor 1. The legislators also fielded questions about issues ranging from health care to electric vehicle charging stations.

Prior to adjourning the meeting, Birmingham encouraged voters to preserve the town tradition of in-person floor vote for Town Meetings, as many Vermont communities shift to an Australian ballot system to be more inclusive to voters who cannot attend a daytime meeting.

“Don’t give up these meetings,” Birmingham said. “We are one of the last towns (in this area that still uses this format). Don’t give up this right.”

Elected officials

Number of voters: 96

Number on checklist: 1,013

Moderator: Matt Birmingham

Town Clerk: Cathy Archibald

Treasurer: Cathy Archibald

Selectboard: Mark Harley

Lister: Deb Spackman

Auditor: Justin Burrows

Delinquent Tax Collector: Cathy Archibald

First Constable: Bill Young

Second Constable: vacant

Campbell Fund Trustee: Patricia Kenyon

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or at 603-727-3216.

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